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Document Details :
Title: De liefde van Alcibiades: een breekpunt in Plato?
Subtitle: Lacans lectuur van het Symposium
Author(s): MOYAERT, Paul
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Filosofie
Volume: 72 Issue: 2 Date: 2010
Why does Plato end the Symposium with Alcibiades’ confession of love and Socrates’ reply? The time when exegetes completely ignored this passage is now long past. These days not a single commentary on the Symposium fails to remark on this incident. In this essay I explain Lacan’s little-known reading that he presents in his seminar Le transfert (1960-1961). For him, Alcibiades’ declaration of love is philosophically relevant, because it makes us think about what love is. For Diotima, Eros is attracted by what is perfect on the side of the love-object. That is the reason why a love-object is exchangeable either by similar objects or by objects with greater perfectness. Alcibiades’ love for Socrates doesn’t fit into the metaphysical picture of Diotima. Instead of loving the reality Socrates represents, he is attracted to the individual, Socrates, himself. Eros’ movement of continually seeking something else and some greater perfection ends in love for an individual. Alcibiades does not symptomize a bad understanding of love, nor does he exemplify love as an expression of unbridled sexuality. His love is a critique of the notion of love as developed in the spiritual metaphysics of Diotima. Love understood as a principle of attachment doesn’t follow the scala amoris of Diotima. Thus for Lacan, this notion of love puts into question the traditional idea that love and goodness for the love-object (love as benevolentia) are one. Exclusive love is not without rivalry, jealousy and envy. Then how should we understand Socrates’ reply at the end of the Symposium? Why is he flirting with Agathon after having warned the audience not to be misled by Alcibiades’ speech? Lacan understands Socrates’ reaction as an attempt to bring Alcibiades back on the trail in search of greater perfection. Socrates has a much more radical view than Diotima. For Diotima the empirical level is a necessary starting point for arriving higher up. Individuals are not without some value. Socrates on the other hand explicitly says that he is nothing. That is a shocking insight that might prevent Alcibiades from identifying with Socrates. By flirting with Agathon, Socrates reassures Alcibiades that his object of love is not meaningless. He supports Alcibiades’ desire and strengthens his weak desire for higher perfection. In the last section of my essay I explain how Lacan connects the agalmata that Alcibiades sees in Socrates with the idea that every love has a fetishistic character.